Bitcoin’s Crazy Run Is Crushing All Other Digital Currencies

December 7, 2017, 4:39 PM UTC
Photograph by Thomas Trutschel — Photothek via Getty Images

Even by the standards of bitcoin, it’s been a crazy few days. In the last 48 hours, bitcoin smashed through the $12,000 mark and kept right on climbing—to $14,000 then $15,000 and past $16,000 as of Thursday morning.

This is a remarkable run but, in the midst of the mania, something else surprising is happening in the digital currency markets. Namely, the price of other crypto-currencies are not rising right alongside bitcoin as you might expect—they’re not even rising more slowly.

Instead, other popular digital assets like Ethereum and Bitcoin Coin have actually been tumbling as bitcoin soars like a rocket ship. Take a look at the screenshot below, courtesy of CoinMarketCap, to see what I mean:

In the last 24 hours, bitcoin has left its erstwhile rivals in the dust, gaining 25% in value while the others have fallen anywhere from 3% to 10%.

What exactly is going on here? As with many things related to bitcoin, it’s hard to know for sure. Even though quants have long been poring over price movements to find correlations between bitcoin and other assets—such as those that exist between equities and Treasuries or airline stocks and oil prices —few predictable patterns have emerged.

Photograph by Thomas Trutschel — Photothek via Getty Images / photomontage Fortune

One guess is that speculators are deciding that even the most popular substitutes will not hold value, and are deciding they want bitcoin or nothing.

As Charlie Lee, the creator of LiteCoin (currently number 7 on the list above) and a good source for digital currency insights, declared on Twitter, bitcoin is clearly “the king of crypto.”

What happens next, of course, is anyone’s guess. As Lee suggests, a bitcoin price correction is likely on the way and, if that happens, it’s unclear if the sellers will redirect their money to other crypto currencies—or get out of the market altogether.

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